Friday, March 19, 2010

In Defense of a Marriage

My daughter came out to me when she was nineteen.

It would not have been my first choice for her life.

If she had said, “I think I’m gay,” or even “I’m gay, Mom,” I might have been able to convince myself that she was mistaken, lured from her moorings by an older girl.

But, looking directly at me, with eyes so like my own, she said, “I dig on chicks.”

No matter how many different ways I turned that phrase, trying to twist it into something else, it stayed what it was.

Years later, I found myself sitting poolside with an old friend, drinking beer from aluminum cans that started sweating the minute we pulled them from the cooler. I was nursing my first, she was on her third. The air reeked of chlorine and pulsed with the squealing and splashing of our grandchildren.

Squinting at me in the sunlight, she said, “What do you really think about Annie being gay?" She leaned toward me. "You can’t like her being, you know, a lesbian.”

I thought about her daughter, living with a guy who "has a temper" that regularly gets them evicted. The last time I saw her, she'd gained 50 pounds and her right eye had traces of greenish-yellow beneath it. Her children, a girl and a boy who have their father's sandy hair, clung to her, peeking at me from behind Mom's thick calves. She didn't plan the second child, and worries about getting pregnant again.

Then I thought about my daughter, now settled with a partner in a nice neighborhood. They’ve each given birth to a child by an anonymous donor. One boy and one girl, who look startlingly like their mothers. Their never-to-be-known father was a physician, six-foot tall, with dark hair and eyes. I can see no trace of him in my grandchildren, though perhaps I just don’t know what to look for. The girls spent thousands of dollars conceiving these much-desired children and, with no effort whatsoever, they will bear no more.

The scent of hops hung in the air as my friend's eyes challenged me with the values we were raised by.

“Who our children become may not be what we would have chosen for them,” I said, “but that doesn’t change how much we love them.”

She started to nod, but stopped herself. “But she’s gay,” she said insistently.

I shrugged, stared at my beer can. "It wouldn't have been my first choice.”

Nodding, she settled back in her chair.

Nearby, a little boy with his mother's eyes leapt into the water, slim as a fish, crying, "Grandma! Watch me!"

I set down my can, looked directly at my friend.

"But I was wrong."


  1. Oh Jeanne, that was amazing! You should have won.

    We parents are wrong about lots of things and our kids and grandkids teach us some important lessons.

    I think its great some children have the courage and the parental support to be who they really are not who others want them to be.

    That takes a lot of guts in the world we live in but thank goodness things are slowly changing.

    Thanks for sharing this post, and I love this line which I must never forget myself,

    “Who our children become may not be what we would have chosen for them,” I say, “but that doesn’t change how much we love them.”

    I hope you get this piece published widely nonetheless. It speaks volumes.

  2. I can figure out the one and only reason why you didn't win. Shame, because this is a beautiful piece of writing.
    What I love is the way that I can see the reaction of the friend, after the delivery of the last line. Very clever.
    This piece deserves to find a wider audience. As Lilly says, it speaks volumes.

  3. I love it. Please, enter it someplace else, it DOES deserve recognition. You're amazing.

  4. This story is a winner in so many ways, regardless of the outcome of the contest.

  5. I would pick you to win..of course I am not Catholic.. Very well done have every right to be proud of this piece and your daughter and your grands:)

  6. That was an absolutely wonderful piece of writing, bravo!!

  7. You had me feeling defeated when you admitted it wouldn't have been your first choice, but I cheered in my heart when I read that last line. It was beautifully executed.

  8. I agree with Rachel, enter it again, it really works. I am finding that many say they just keep entering things till an editor sees something in our pieces...I believe that. We all have different taste at different times in our life...

    My son has come to me and told me he might be gay...I still love 'him'.

  9. This was beautifully written, girl. Yes, we love our children no matter what may come our way. Love overcomes all.

    Have a fabulous Friday and a weekend filled with blessings!!!

  10. Loved every bit of this - fantastic. Well done!

  11. Beautiful, brilliantly written.

  12. This is wonderful. It's loving and gentle and keeps on moving and then pop! a nice soft zinger ending.

  13. I know I've read this before, but it still brings tears to my eyes on a second reading.

  14. GREAT post. (And I LOVED Erma Bombeck and try to write in her style all the time!!!)
    Lindsey Petersen

  15. I liked that! Those stupid catholics, what do they know about good writing?

    Your daughter is lucky to have such a loving mom.

  16. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Well done!
    I would have chosen this piece because I am a Catholic and this shows Christianity at it's best.

    I agree wholeheartedly with those who encourage you to enter it elsewhere!

  17. Oh, Jeanne, you are just too wonderful. If only all parents shared the same view as you. Yup, I'm gay, and my parents know, but we don't talk about it. My dad being a retired minister and all, and my mother being the original 'church lady'. But that's okay with least they know and understand that no matter what, I'm still their son and they do love me.

    I, too, entered the Erma Bomeck writing contest (because of your suggestion). I haven't heard from them yet, so I figure they thought what I wrote sucked...and it probably does. But your entry is brilliant. It's something that should be spread far and wide for all to see. I hope you do win; you deserve it.

    Here's my entry, if you have a moment to be bored:

    Walking the fine line between being a preacher’s kid and trying to be normal in a secular world is like putting French fries between your toes and jumping rope. It ain’t pretty.

    Picture it. Your parents, a couple of Southern hill folk, get married, move North and find Jesus, Brylcreem and Aquanet. Soon after, your father enters Bible college to become a preacher, and your mother spends her days raising three precious cherubs, hosting Tupperware parties and honing her Sunday School teaching skills.

    Growing up, my family was part of a religious, I mean a wonderful organization that moved ministers around from time to time. I spent most of my childhood living in such chic podunk communities as Quarryville, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t exactly Disney World, but playing hide-and-seek in a cornfield and tossing cow patties at your sister’s head is certainly up there.

    Sunday school, Worship Service, Sunday night service, Wednesday Prayer Meetin’ and Thursday Youth Club left me with little idle time to do the Devil’s work. However, I did manage to make good use of what little free time I did have. If I wasn’t running around singing ‘The Diarrhea Song’ or flashing my tighty whities at my siblings, I could be found lighting pretend cigarettes or wildly gyrating my hips watching Solid Gold.(I had a thing for Marilyn McCoo.)

    You know, making up for all those adolescent years I spent Bible thumping.

    Throughout my journey through the secular world, I’ve found that religious folk are kind people, but they do sometimes falter. They aren’t always as perfect as a scrubbed-up parson on one of those flashy television shows.

    In fact, whenever I see a Holy Roller preacher protest too much about immorality, I think to myself, I bet he’s wearing nothing but a thong under that choir robe.

  18. Look. You win MY prize. Which really only is my adoration, my respect, and my appreciation at this beautiful essay. But I'll make you a certificate if you want. :)

  19. 變天了~~注意身體,別感冒囉! ........................................

  20. Funny how our opinions change with circumstances..if you haven't been there, hold your thoughts...

  21. Dude, this was an awesome piece.

    Also, "I dig on chicks"? That definitely got a laugh from me.

  22. Perfect. Truly. I loved it. You say so much with so few words.

  23. I agree with you totally. Who cares if she's gay or straight? She's made a loving family for herself, and that's what counts. She's safe, she's happy with herself. Sound like a win/win deal to me.

    It's fair that you didn't win, when clearly your statement goes against the Catholic sentiments. But you really should find somewhere else to enter this. There is so much truth in it.

  24. This is why I love you, Jeanne. Well said.

    And I feel a little sorry for your friend.


    p.s. I will be at the Erma Bombeck thing in April. Do you live anywhere near Dayton? We won't sit by the pool in April, but we could have a beer!

  25. That is a great story! I am so sorry you didn't win. I didn't even know about this contest until too late. I would love to enter as well next time. Rejection - here I come:)

  26. You win in my book!

  27. Amen!! Thank you so much for choosing this post for the mixer, Jeanne!!!

  28. This is so well written and touching. I think you should have won.

  29. Loved your post so much, I featured it again:

  30. What a beautiful post! I love what you said, "who our children become may not be what we would have chosen for them…but it doesn't change how much we love them." I wonder if I may use it and reference it back to you on a new project of mine. Please email me at I would love to discuss it with you.
    I found you on the mommy brain mixer.

  31. What a wonderful narrative. I felt like I was watching you two converse by the waterside.

    Sometimes, the best things in life come in a way that we don't expect. Embracing life with all the love we got is the best thing to do.

  32. My children are too young to worry about this, but I've had a few conversations with my husband about "What if?" We both come from ultra-conservative, somewhat close-minded families and I was worried that my husband would react badly if it ever happened.

    Hearing your story of your own I don't have a clue if I'll ever have a gay child, but if I do, I hope to handle things as beautifully as you. Your family sounds wonderful and beautiful.

  33. Wow. What a contrast. I am so happy for your daughter, and so sad for your friend's. I also feel confident that your daughter's children will grow up to be better functioning adults than the other daughter's, not in spite of, but because of their upbringing.

  34. Hi Jeanne, I just wanted to let you know that I featured your post in 'The best of my weekly reading series for 2012:


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